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Germany: Trial against 'Reichsbürger' group begins in Munich

June 18, 2024

The trial against the "Reichsbürger" group, which allegedly planned to violently overthrow the German government, has begun in Munich. Alleged members are already on trial separately in Frankfurt and Stuttgart.

Criminal proceedings against Christian W. on suspicion of membership of a terrorist organization starts in Munich
Part of the nationwide trial against "Rheichsbürger" group begins in MunichImage: Frank Hoermann/SvenSimon/picture alliance

The third trial against the "Reichsbürger" group around Heinrich XIII Prinz Reuss begins on Tuesday at the Munich Higher Regional Court (OLG).

The members of the group are already on trial in Frankfurt and Stuttgart. The group is accused of planning a violent coup. 

What do we know about the group?

The group came to light after a large-scale anti-terror raid in several German states and abroad in December 2022. 

The current total of 26 suspects are said to have planned a violent overthrow of the federal government. According to the Federal Prosecutor's Office, they consciously accepted the risk of death. 

Reuss was to be the head of a new form of government. 

Who is on trial in Munich?

The eight defendants in Munich are accused of membership in, and in some cases founding, a terrorist organization and of preparing a so-called high treason enterprise.

Several of the Munich defendants allegedly belonged to the organization's so-called "council" or to the command staff of its "military arm."

Four men are also charged with preparing a serious act of violence that threatens the state, and one is charged with violating the Weapons Act. They all face lengthy prison sentences. 

Germany: Suspected 'Reichsbürger' network on trial

Why are there multiple trials?

Reuss and the alleged ringleaders are on trial in Frankfurt in what is viewed as the central trial. In Stuttgart, the federal prosecutor's office has indicted alleged members of the group's "military arm."

The case has been split into several trials, mainly due to the large number of defendants. Rulings in all three trials linked to the alleged coup attempt of Reuss and his co-conspirators are not expected before 2025.

The Munich Higher Regional Court has initially set 55 dates for the main trial, currently up until the end of January 2025.

Who are the 'Reichsbürger'?

The Reichsbürger, literally "citizens of the Reich," is the name given to a disparate movement of conspiracy theorists who deny the legitimacy of Germany's post-World War II Federal Republic.

Although there is some overlap with the far-right scene, "Reichsbürger" are distinguished by their adherence to four often debunked claims: That the pre-war German Empire (Reich) still legally exists, that the post-war Federal Republic of Germany does not have a valid constitution, that the Federal Republic is not a state at all but in fact a private corporation, and that Germany is still under Allied occupation.

The movement originated in the 1980s and consists of both organized groups and individuals throughout Germany who show varying degrees of resistance to the administrative organs of the state.

What is Germany's 'Reichsbürger' movement?

dh/rc (AFP, dpa)